December 6 2013 Latest news:
By James Cunliffe at Allianz Park
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Premiership: Saracens 40 Newcastle Falcons 3
Saracens took a while to sparkle but they bounced back from last week’s maiden defeat of the season to claim a try bonus win over Newcastle Falcons and extend their lead over Northampton Saints - their conquerors of seven days ago.
Charlie Hodgson – who claimed 18 points on his return from an Achilles tear – got the Hendon side off and running with the only score of the first half but Sarries stepped it up a gear after the half time interval.
David Strettle scored twice to take his tally for the campaign to six and become the leading marksman in the division, while there was one apiece for man-of-the-match Jamie George and Alex Goode.
Saracens held a fireworks night display at Allianz Park immediately after the final whistle but the first 30 minutes of rugby action failed to catch light.
A wonky lineout provided Falcons stand off Phil Godman with a first shot at goal but he couldn’t capitalise as, what looked like a routine, close-range penalty, crashed back off the post.
He landed a far more difficult effort soon after before Matt Stevens was sent to the bin for an aerial lineout foul that momentarily sparked handbags between the two forward packs.
Sarries captain Steve Borthwick, who had departed temporarily for a blood substitution, returned and was immediately involved on the other side of a Falcons maul that was illegally impeded. Again they were let off the hook when Godman’s shot sailed wide.
The visitors had been the better side, but only marginally because of greater territorial advantage, while the frustrations for the hosts were that they were frequently on the wrong end of referee Matthew Carley’s whistle at the breakdown.
At other times it was their own errors that stopped them from building any momentum with Michael Tagicakibau, Ernst Joubert and Richard Barrington all suffering from a case of butter fingers.
Saracens had spent precious little time in the Newcastle half but they were awarded a penalty on one of their rare excursions on 28 minutes. Hodgson missed but soon atoned when he scampered over the whitewash for the first try of the afternoon.
Chris Wyles it was who broke the gain line and ate up ground before being hauled to the deck two metres from the line. And on the first test of their rearguard, Falcons failed as the Sarries fly-half scythed through a gaping hole to run in under the posts. Hodgson added his own extras and then hit the target again with a penalty goal after much deliberation from the referee and his video assistant.
Mr Carley had originally awarded a penalty to the visitors despite Ryan Shortland wringing the neck of Will Fraser in a mid air challenge under a high ball, which left the Saracens man prone on the ground. If Stevens’ indiscretion earlier in the contest deserved a yellow card then so to did this one but a stern talking to was all that the official administered, while overturning his original decision.
And from a scruffy and unconvincing start the Londoners filed back to the changing room seven points to the good.
Two quick-fire penalties from Hodgson after the break gave Sarries some breathing space before Strettle struck in sublime fashion. The wing expertly collected Goode’s touch-bound grubber and avoid the paint himself to dot down in the corner. The TMO had a prolonged look at the effort but every TV replay angle showed the hitman had arranged his hands and feet with precision to finish. Hodgson hit the upright with the conversion but there had been little evidence from Falcons that the two points missed would come back to haunt them.
So it proved as the hosts cranked through the gears and battered Newcastle with a customary lineout drive with George the man to supply the finish. It was the hooker’s last action as he was replaced by Schalk Brits as Hodgson missed the conversion.
There wasn’t long to wait for the bonus point score as Hodgson’s long pass found Fraser and the forward drew the tackle, popping off to Goode to gladly flopped over the line. With the game won, that also completed the afternoon’s work of the Premiership’s all-time record points scorer, as he made way for Ben Ransom.
There was still time for a fifth score and it was a burst from Strettle who, after his earlier display of silky skills, showed brawn and determination to finish. The flyer had plenty of work to do after collecting Goode’s incisive pass, but he bundled past two Newcastle defenders for his sixth of the season. Goode converted to round off a second half display that lit up this corner of north London every bit as much as the post-match fireworks display that followed.
Saracens: 15. Alex Goode; 14. Michael Tagicakibau, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Chris Wyles, 11. David Strettle; 10. Charlie Hodgson, 9. Neil de Kock; 1. Richard Barrington, 2. Jamie George, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. Mouritz Botha, 6. Jackson Wray, 7. Will Fraser, 8. Ernst Joubert.
Replacements (all used): 16. Schalk Brits, 17. Nick Auterac, 18. Petrus Du Plessis, 19. George Kruis, 20. Jacques Burger, 21. Richard Wigglesworth, 22. Duncan Taylor, 23. Ben Ransom.
Scorers: Tries - Hodgson, Strettle (2), George, Goode; Penalties - Hodgson (3); Conversions - Hodgson (2), Goode;
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg
Replacements (all used): 16 George McGuigan, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 James Fitzpatrick
Scorers: Penalties - Godman